We’re Nikki and Jamie, the co-founders of Sojourn. It’s been nearly 4 months since we officially launched our platform and we thought it’s about time that we introduce ourselves and share our story of how Sojourn came to be.
We are two old friends from Cape Town who share a mutual love of beautiful things, as well as a growing discomfort towards the fast-paced, throwaway cycle of consumerism that is ever present in our society.
After living together in London for a couple years, sharing closets and patriotism for our homeland, our idea for Sojourn started to develop organically. Evening conversations on our balcony often mulled over our admiration for the burst of creators and entrepreneurs in South Africa, many of whom are our friends.
Londoner’s seem spoiled for choice with some of the biggest international retailers on their doorstep. But for the more consciously minded, there is a lack of attainable options for supporting smaller, more sustainable businesses. This left us with our main challenge:
How could we create a platform that bridges the gap between these exciting South African brands wanting to broaden their horizons, and this European audience with a deep appreciation for bespoke, sustainable (yet affordable) brands?
There is no blueprint instruction manual for starting a company and for us, it involved a lot of the blind leading the blind. Fortunately, our combined experience set us up with a relatively good springboard: Nikki, a former small business owner with a background in fashion and retail, and Jamie with experience in the digital marketing and advertising scene.
We have also learnt that you can do anything with the help from a YouTube Tutorial. But more importantly, we’ve discovered the value of our immediate network – beyond being treasured people in our personal lives. From shipping, to financial management, SEO, photography and editing, we are hugely grateful for our friends and family who have so willingly helped us in the areas where we lack expertise.
Having an idea or ambition is one thing. Realising it is really something quite different. 2020 has been an extraordinary year for most, adapting to unprecedented change and what seems like never ending uncertainty. With consumer confidence in the UK dipping to its lowest point since 2011, we have often been met with the question: Why start an e-commerce platform in the midst of a global pandemic? For us, the change in lifestyle and working from home meant that we had a little extra time outside of our 9-6 to bring our passion project to life.
The pandemic has also given us all this unique opportunity for introspection and to consider our impact and legacy. In some ways this year has seemed like the perfect time to set up a business that not only supports small businesses, but also puts ethics and sustainability at the centre.
We partner with brands we love. Who share our view on ethical production, and our commitment to reducing our impact. Almost all our brands manufacture exclusively in South Africa working closely with reputable CMT’s and suppliers. We have fully bought into slowing down consumption, investing in fewer, high quality pieces with a unique edge, that will last far longer than just a season.
We’ve also taken great care to make sure all our packaging is beautiful but stripped back, completely recyclable or biodegradable (bar our sticker, but we are working on that). We are fully aware that our business model of shipping goods from South Africa doesn’t come without a footprint. We are mindful of the way we manage our orders, consolidating our shipments where possible. As our business grows we want to find ways to completely offset our imports. Like everyone, we are still learning about little ways to do our bit in contributing to a more conscious lifestyle.
Despite the time it’s taken to make such small steps, it’s incredibly rewarding for us to see our plans take shape and turn into something tangible, something that is ours.
Needless to say, we know this is just the beginning and we have a long journey ahead of us.
But we can’t wait to see what it brings, and where we can take Sojourn.